According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 6 couples will suffer from infertility, and many couples struggling with infertility will seek support through in vitro fertilization (IVF). It is now estimated that about 1 to 2 percent of live births in Canada are due to IVF.
For anyone who has experienced IVF, they will tell you that the experience is an emotional roller coaster; between the drugs, the money worries, the waiting, the astronomical amount of pressure and the expectations and worries about the outcome. In addition, many women are already dealing with the emotional impact and worry of not being able to have children. In one study out of 200 couples, 50% of women and 15% of men said infertility was the most life-changing experience of their lives. Overall, the whole fertility experience has emotional consequences, and we often remain silent about our experience because of shame and guilt.
From both a professional and a personal perspective, there are a lot of ups and downs throughout the process. However, I have to say that the IVF experience just might take the cake! I have had many clients and friends through the IVF process, but I really didn’t understand the emotional impact until I experienced it myself.
Here are some strategies to help you cope better emotionally throughout your IVF journey:
Make sure you and your partner are on the same page
Clear and open communication is the key! Talk to your partner about how you are feeling and give them the opportunity to share the same. Your partner’s role can be seen as relatively easy compared to yours, but make sure that you both are open about how to support each other through the process, as well as expectations. Hormones can be hard on the body, so don’t hesitate to ask for help or delegate responsibility. It can also be helpful to talk about things other than IVF and infertility, such as talking about the future (travel, career goals, interests, etc.). Don’t let fertility and IVF get you down.
Have realistic expectations of yourself
You are not responsible for your infertility. Unfortunately, for many couples, the reasons for infertility are unexplained. Try to enter IVF with realistic expectations of what you can and cannot control. You can control how you deal with your stress, take care of your body, take your medications, and follow the doctor’s instructions, but that’s where it ends. I cannot stress this enough, it is not your fault and whatever the outcome you are not to blame.
Take time for yourself
Give yourself permission to do things that are good for you! It is important to take care of yourself now. Not only will self-care distractions help you think about IVF, self-care can help reduce emotional vulnerabilities. Do things that make you feel good about yourself, whether it’s exercising, being outdoors, pampering, meditating, or even just being alone with your thoughts. Plus, don’t be afraid to say no to obligations or see people who don’t “fill your cup.”
Build a community around you
Even though doctors and nurses do a great job educating you about the process and the impacts on your body, the impacts on your emotional and mental self are often overlooked. Contact friends who have had IVF to better understand what it was like. Everyone’s experience is different, of course, but it gives you some insight into the emotional consequences that IVF can have.
Also, I highly recommend that you consider advice. For many of my clients, counseling and psychotherapy have been shown to be beneficial in treating and managing the feelings / emotions that arise before, during, and after IVF. Strategies derived from cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness are very effective in dealing with some of the thought processes and feelings that you might have difficulty with before you even begin the process.
Whatever the outcome, the experience is life changing. If you are interested in counseling and psychotherapy, make an appointment with our resident therapist. Psychotherapy and counseling services are available at the Bronte Wellness Boutique.